In Davis, California, a committee that had been working on a draft policy submitted its report to the Board of Education for review last week. Take a look at the report. It has many family friendly recommendations and, where the people in the committee disagreed with each other, they wrote their own dissents. Here are just a few of the provisions I especially like:
* Weekend and holiday homework shall not be assigned. New assignments given on the last school day of a school week may not be due on the first day of the next school week. The intent of this clause shall not be circumvented by assigning homework for a later due date when additional assignments are planned prior to the due date, and the accumulation of assignments exceeds the maximum amount of homework allowed by the policy, or requires some completion on the weekend. For example, homework should not be assigned on Friday which is due the following Tuesday when a teacher plans to assign additional new homework on Monday and when one homework day (in this case Monday) would not be sufficient to complete the homework assigned the previous Friday.
* Teachers are encouraged to develop an agreement with students about when it is appropriate for the student to cease working on the day’s homework (for example, it is taking too much time or the student is unable to complete the assignment independently).
* Consequences for lack of homework completion shall not include exclusion from recess.
* The family shall:
5. intervene and stop a child who has spent an excessive amount of time on the day’s homework;
6. not allow students to sacrifice sleep to complete homework;
7. communicate with the teacher(s) if the student is not consistently able to do the homework by him/herself or if challenges or questions arise. Families of older students should encourage the child to communicate with the teacher in order to foster independence and personal responsibility
Before the end of the school year, one of the parents on the committee will write here about how she got involved in organizing for a better policy and her experiences in doing so.
by Heidy Kellison
co-chair of Homework Committee
June 24, 2010
After nearly three years, a 144-page report, and four school board meetings later, the Davis Joint Unified School District has a new homework policy. The final draft received a 5-0 vote on the first official day of summer. The symbolism is fantastic! A great day for kids made even better for their health and all forms of their development.
Davis is a university town of 65,000 people, just 15 miles from California’s State Capitol. The University of California at Davis is one of the nation’s top research universities, so the demographics aren’t surprising: According to the California Department of Education, 93% of parents with school-aged children have attended college, with a full 60% having attended graduate school. Despite chronic state budget deficits, Davis voters continually pass parcel taxes and raise private funds to maintain healthy schools. Volunteerism is high, and serving on the Board of Education probably deserves hazard pay. It’s safe to say, Davis places a high value on education.
On the surface, Davis seems an unlikely place to call for a reduction in homework. After all, if we value education so much, what’s wrong with doing whatever it takes to get the grade? (A lot, as it turns out.)
I was lucky to co-chair a 12-person committee comprised of teachers, administrators, and parents (I’m a parent). We met for 14 months and developed recommendations where research and consensus intersect.
Is the policy everything I’d hoped for? No. Did anyone get everything they wanted? Absolutely not. But do I believe our process was sound and worthy of being duplicated in other school districts? You bet.
I’ve learned a lot, including the need to approach all stakeholders with an open heart and mind. I’ve acquired more patience, much knowledge, and a great deal of respect for people who invest their lives serving children–parents and professional educators alike.
I know there are bad parents, teachers and administrators, just as there are bad insurance agents, doctors, chefs…you name it. It makes no sense whatsoever to paint any profession with a broad brush, any more than it makes sense to perpetuate racial bias. When we stop pitting ourselves against each other, come to the table and release all our preconceived notions, we will finally serve kids well.
Many blessings to all who advocate for children.